Landrace, helmed by Steve McHugh, will be the Thompson's signature restaurant. Courtesy Thompson San Antonio

By Nina Rangel | San Antonio Current

Thompson San Antonio, San Antonio's first luxury hotel to open in five years, has roped in the culinary talents of two local heavy hitters: chefs Steve McHugh and Robert Cantu.

McHugh—a five-time James Beard Award finalist and chef-owner of Cured at the Pearl—will helm Landrace, a 200-seat eatery on the hotel's ground floor that will highlight regional providers of quail, pork and produce. The hotel and both restaurants are scheduled to open next month.

“Landrace is a dream realized for me, as I have been envisioning and working on the concept for some time,” McHugh said in a release. “The menu will showcase my fascination with local ingredients and the unique products grown in Texas as we celebrate the natural flavors and nuances of the seasons in collaboration with Texas’ heritage farmers and growers.”

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Dishes at Landrace tentatively include a savory Wagyu beef tartare with smoked crème fraiche, quail egg and American caviar as well as an oven-roasted delicata squash with pomegranates and rye berry pilaf.

Meanwhile, Robert Cantu, a San Antonio native who's cooked throughout Texas and the Midwest, will lead The Moon’s Daughters, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant and bar on the 20-story hotel's rooftop.

Cantu will serve a variety of small plates featuring ingredients such as charred and preserved lemon, local honey, roasted pistachios, local eggplant, fried mint and Marcona almonds. Lamb Ragu and Seared Black Bass will round out its entree options.

The Thompson San Antonio hotel is scheduled to open February 18, according to its website. The pricey lodging—a standard room starts at $300—is accepting reservations for room stays beginning March 1.

McHugh’s Landrace is scheduled to open February 18, while Cantu’s The Moon’s Daughter will open Feb. 20.

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

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By Nina Rangel | San Antonio Current

Velvet Taco, the Dallas-based chain poised to set up in shop in what little remains of hallowed punk-rock haven Taco Land, has announced opening dates for its two San Antonio locations.

The restaurant where the legendary Grayson Street music venue once stood will begin serving March 22, according to mySA, while a brand-new Rim location will be slinging tacos even sooner: late February.

“I’m a Dallas guy, but I’m a Texan, and I love San Antonio,” Velvet Taco CEO Clay Dover told the news site. “There’s great diversity and an up-and-coming food culture, and San Antonio is one of the most culturally rich cities I know of.”

The chain — which operates more than 20 locations across Texas and in Atlanta, Chicago and Charlotte — is known for globally inspired tacos with flavors such as spicy chicken tikka, Korean pork and crunchy falafel. Traditional options, as well as frozen margaritas, beer and wine, will also be on the menu.

The former Taco Land site, at 101 W. Grayson St., near the Pearl, will feature additional kitchen and dining spaces, including some of the building's original murals and trademark oak tree.

The other Velvet Taco will be located at 5515 N. Loop 1604 W., Suite 105 in the Rim.

Both locations will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

Devils River Whiskey is located inside the Burns building, 401 E. Houston St.
Devils River is located inside the Burns building, 401 E. Houston St. Courtesy @devilsrwhiskey

By Nina Rangel | San Antonio Current

More than two years after announcing plans to relocate to San Antonio, Devils River Distillery has finally confirmed it will open a downtown headquarters and tasting room in January.

Planned for the Burns Building at 401 E. Houston St., the functioning distillery will also feature a rooftop venue with live music and a rotating menu of Prohibition-era cocktails and appetizers. An antique bar and copper stills will complement the 1919 building's copper hardware, marble floors and floor-to-ceiling columns, giving the feel of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, according to company officials.

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"The opening of Devils River Distillery will allow us to be completely produced, distilled, aged and bottled in San Antonio," says Mike Cameron, Devils River's co-founder and head distiller. "It's a feat we are most proud of."

At present, the company produces its whiskeys in Dallas.

According to the distillery’s website, the name is derived from the actual Devils River in Southwest Texas, where the water used to distill the whiskey is sourced. The whiskey — available in bourbon, rye, barrel strength and coffee expressions — is distributed to 29 states.

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

Brasserie Mon Chou Chou will open for dinner service Monday at the Pearl.
COURTESY PEARL

By Nina Rangel | San Antonio Current

New French comfort food spot Brasserie Mon Chou Chou will open for dinner service Monday at the Pearl, offering a casual atmosphere with wine, oysters, cheese plates and heartier entrees.

Brasserie Mon Chou Chou is led by French-born Executive Chef Laurent Réa, who formerly served as the executive chef at Andrew Weismann’s Signature restaurant at Northwest SA’s La Cantera Resort & Spa. The new Brasserie was conceptualized by Réa and Southerleigh Hospitality Group partners Jerome Serot, Philippe Placé and Chef Jeff Balfour.

Housed in the space formerly occupied by The Culinary Institute of America’s NAO, at 312 Pearl Parkway, Building 2, Suite 2104, Mon Chou Chou will open Monday at 3 p.m. Walk-ups will be accepted as capacity allows, so reservations are recommended.

Reservations are available at the Brasserie’s OpenTable website. Following the grand opening, the restaurant will be open Monday through Saturday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

The San Antonio Express-News building on Avenue E and Third Street in 2019.
The San Antonio Express-News building at Avenue E and Third Street in 2019. Jullien Uriegas | Heron

By Sanford Nowlin | San Antonio Current

In its latest cost-cutting move, the San Antonio Express-News is vacating the building it's occupied since 1929 and relocating all printing to the Houston Chronicle, also owned by corporate parent Hearst Corp.

In a MySA article explaining the move, the daily said it's also eliminated 62 positions through voluntary buyouts, including 11 in the newsroom and 36 in its print shop. However, the paper will hire 10 newsroom staffers as part of its move, meaning it will largely offset the loss in editorial staff.

The relocation is only taking the Express-News a block away. The paper is leasing two floors of the Light building, once owned by Hearst, for a total of 22,000 square feet of space. The move will be complete by mid-March.

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“Throughout this pandemic, all of our employees have gone above and beyond the call of duty,” Express-News Publisher Mark Medici told MySA. “The voluntary separation program is an acknowledgment of these challenging times and provided an option for some employees to pursue other interests, retire early, spend more time with family or simply recharge and reset."

The voluntary buyouts follow a May 2018 layoff that trimmed 14 seasoned journalists from the paper's ranks. The paper's deepest personnel cut came in 2009, when it laid off 75 editorial employees, or a third of its newsroom.

Hearst put the Express-News' eight-story building and adjoining printing plant on the market in May of last year. It still hasn't located a buyer for the property. Medici didn't reveal terms of the rental deal for the Light building but said the move will slash operating expenses by 50%.

The Express-News and other daily newspapers have been in a continuous cost-cutting mode since the early 2000s as readers and ad dollars continue to defect online.

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This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

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Tony's Bar, 602 Brooklyn Ave., will be closing for good on Friday, Oct. 25. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron
Tony's Bar (pictured here), 206 Brooklyn Ave., has reopened as Tony's Siesta, while keeping the wall signage untouched. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

By Nina Rangel | San Antonio Current

Recently-opened Tony’s Siesta oozes tio vibes y puro SA attitude.

Situated at 206 Brooklyn Ave. near downtown, Tony’s Siesta aims to preserve the comfortable atmosphere of the previous spot — revered watering hole Tony’s Bar — while embracing the growth of SA as a food and beverage destination.

Previous owner Tony Lopez closed the doors on the aptly named bar late last year, retiring after 20 years of providing ice cold beer and comfortable vibes to blue collar locals in the downtown area. In its place, Tony's Siesta has emerged with an upgraded interior, but the same 'Old San Antonio' feeling.

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You're one in a melon and so is this yummy Watermelon Fresca from Tony's Siesta in downtown SA.

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"When I was introduced to Tony and the idea of taking over, they were one and the same, Tony and the bar," new proprietor Andy Palacios told the Current. "It’s small enough to be a friendly neighborhood bar, but still downtown, where a people can experience puro vibes, inspired by Old San Antonio and Mexican heritage. If I could put SA in a bar, this would be it."

Palacios — a seasoned veteran in the local bar scene with a pedigree that includes stints at craft cocktail joints Blue Box and Francis Bogside — had plans to leave the bar industry for a spell when acquiring Tony's became a possibility.

"The stars really aligned for us, because I was getting ready to get a 9-to-5," he said. "I've always wanted to open up my own bar, but banks want to see consistent income. As a bartender, that's tough, because we typically take home cash."

With the help of hospitality entrepreneur program Break Fast and Launch, Palacios secured an investor, and later, a small business loan through nonprofit organization LiftFund.

While the exterior of the building — including an iconic, twenty-year-old replica of the Tower of the Americas — remains largely untouched, the interior of the Siesta now boasts rich splashes of color, warm wooden accents and punchy neon details.

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The bar is currently operating in a soft opening capacity, and Palacios is planning a November 21 grand opening. In the meantime, the bar at Tony’s Siesta offers a variety of liquid treats, from tequila to beer to boozy aguas frescas. Enjoy drinks and food truck eats inside the cozy bar area, or bundled up outside at one of many socially-distanced picnic tables.

The cantina is open Monday through Wednesday from 4 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to midnight.

Previously published
As Tony’s Bar closes, a piece of Old San Antonio exits too (Oct. 23, 2019)

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

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By Sanford Nowlin | San Antonio Current

After catching criticism that its Fall Heritage Festival — a fundraiser styled after a mini-Fiesta — could turn into a "superspreader" event, the Conservation Society of San Antonio and city officials have pulled the plug on the gathering.

In a city news release, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the Conservation Society said the Nov. 6 event at downtown's La Villita has been cancelled due local to Covid-19 indicators. Recent Metro Health data show local positivity rates, infections and hospitalizations ticking up.

"Despite the strict safety measures the City and Conservation Society adopted to ensure a healthy event, the continued presence of Covid-19 in our community makes cancelling this event the right call," Nirenberg said in a statement.

Those who purchased tickets can refund the full $125 price, convert it into a tax-deductible donation or apply the funds to a future Conservation Society event.

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This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

Muertos Fest at Hemisfair in 2019.
Muertos Fest at Hemisfair in 2019. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

By Emily DiTomasso | San Antonio Current

Billed as the largest Day of the Dead festival in Texas, Día de los Muertos at Hemisfair — or Muertos Fest to those who prize brevity — will return virtually for its 8th annual installment.

The event will be broadcast as a one-hour special at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 31, in partnership with Sinclair Broadcasting CW35.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Jim Mendiola, the TV special will showcase San Antonio's unique take on the Day of the Dead through music, dance and spoken word performances.

The broadcast will also feature traditional elements of the holiday, such as community altars, or ofrendas. A small group of altars will be featured in mini-documentaries, allowing viewers to learn more about the creators of the altars and their subjects.

In light of the pandemic, the special will put Covid-19's impact on the Latinx community at the forefront.

"If there ever was a time to honor those we’ve lost to the disease, and to thank those farmworkers and care givers and grocery store clerks, it’s now," Mendiola said in a statement. "COVID’s impact on the Latino community has been especially hard, and we will remember lives lived and recognize the resilience of our community through altars, songs and stories of those we’ve lost."

Muertos Fest will have an expanded music lineup this year, including Grammy-award winners Los Lobos, Lila Downs and Carla Morrison, along with National Medal of Art Recipient Santiago Jimenez Jr. — the brother of Flaco Jimenez — plus live performances by local favorites Los Nahuatlatos and Tallercito de Son.

This year also marks the 25th anniversary of Selena's death, so to honor her legacy the festival will showcase a performance of "Fotos y Recuerdos" featuring Chris Perez, the late Tejano legend's husband; Girl in a Coma's Nina Diaz; Mariachi Campanas de America; and Ceci Zavala.

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The program also includes performances by San Antonio poets, in addition to short films by Ray Santisteban.

For those that miss the initial broadcast, or are outside of the San Antonio market, the virtual festival will be rebroadcast with additional material on the Muertos Fest website at 7 p.m. Sunday, November 1.

In addition to the virtual fest, Hemisfair visitors will have the chance to visit a community altar and view art installations by Momo and Pompa on display at the park through November 2.

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

Heron file photo

By Brianna Espinoza | San Antonio Current

The Pearl is transforming its annual Día de los Muertos celebration into a virtual experience this year, though some in-person amenities will still be available.

The downtown development will host a community altar on site, while video of two offsite altars will be streamed on the its social media pages. Esperanza Peace & Justice Center artist in residence Azul Barrientos will also stream a an online performance on Monday, Nov. 2.

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Those looking to celebrate at home can pick up special maker kits created by local artists — a DIY catrina collage by Regina Moya or DIY skull piñatas by Manola & Maria and Lua Bash — from Feliz Modern POP, and enjoy a Pan de Muerto offered by Hotel Emma.

One of the altars on virtual display, a collaboration between the the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council and Mexican Cultural Institute and the Consulate of Mexico in San Antonio, will honor esteemed abstract artist Manuel Felguérez, who died this summer from COVID-19. The second virtual altar, created by local artist Kaldric Dow at the invitation of the Carver Community Cultural Center, will honor those who have lost their lives to social injustice.

Pearl’s community altar is centered on the theme of Amor y Esperanza (Love and Hope), and will be on display at the complex's Shade Structure Nov. 1-8. Dedicated to those who lost their lives to COVID-19, the four-sided altar was made by SAY Sí Artistic Executive Director Jon Hinojosa with help from SAY Sí alumni and staff. In-person visitors will be required to wear masks.

SAY Sí is also developing an interactive app so visitors can leave the names of loved ones instead of a physical mementos at the altar.

Hotel Emma and La Gloria will also have their own altars on display during the holiday.

The Pearl’s fall programming will include the continuation of its weekend farmers markets, a video series on pumpkin recipes featuring Hotel Emma chef John Brand and a curbside event for pickup of curated Thanksgiving boxes to help avoid crowded stores during the holiday season.

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

People wait in line at Las Palmas Library on the West Side as early voting began on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.
People wait in line at Las Palmas Library on the West Side as early voting began on Tuesday. Photo by Stephanie Marquez | Heron contributor

By Sanford Nowlin | San Antonio Current

A Bexar County district judge has ruled that the county's elections department must open 18 additional Election Day voting locations and post all polling sites on its website.

Further, the ruling requires the department to reimplement its volunteer deputy registrar certification program and publicize the new polling locations within 21 days of the election.

Without those changes, the county stands to violate the Texas Election Code, Judge Karen Pozza said in an opinion handed down Monday.

Pozza's ruling came in response to a lawsuit by voter mobilization groups MOVE Texas and the Texas Organizing Project, which argued that the county hadn't done enough to ensure voter access during an election that's likely to inspire record turnout amid a pandemic.

Pozza agreed, saying Bexar County must increase its number of Election Day polling sites from 284 to 302, the same number it operated during the 2018 midterm election. It's not required to expand the number of early voting sites beyond the current number of 48, however.

"Voter turnout is negatively impacted by increasing the time and distance it takes to get to a polling place, as well as voter confusion when locations are closed," the judge wrote. "Voters of color are especially sensitive to and impacted by increased distances."

MOVE Texas Executive Director H. Drew Galloway said other Texas counties have responded by opening additional voting sites, and in some case of Houston's Harris County added drive-through voting.

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"This is a moment, because of the pandemic and the situation we're in, where we need to innovate and expand access to the polls in ways we never have before," Galloway said.

Early voting began on Tuesday and will run until Oct. 30. Election Day is Nov. 3.

This article is republished with permission from the San Antonio Current.

The San Antonio Current, San Antonio's award-winning alternative media company, has served as the city's premiere multimedia source of alternative news, events and culture since 1986.

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